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The Virginia State House and Senate are working on versions of a bill that would require medical malpractice suits against doctors be published online for the public to view.

Before going under the knife or just in for a routine checkup, patients might like to know if their doctor has a propensity for mishaps. After all, a small percentage of doctors are repeat offenders who generate a majority of malpractice payments. Patients understandably might wish to stay away from them.

The bill making its way toward law would ensure patients have access to that critical information. A Web resource would list medical malpractice judgments and settlements within the last 10 years, as well as disciplinary actions.

One argument against providing such information is that patients do not have the medical training to judge the outcomes of alleged bad doctoring. It’s a legitimate concern, but more data is almost always better than less. Patients who see a decision against their doctor can discuss it with him to clarify the situation.

This may be a valuable tool for patients on choosing a doctor. It could also help foster honest discussions between doctors and patients.

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